It's safe to say the "slasher" is making a comeback, at least in the world of video games. The upcoming Until Dawn, Summer Camp, Last Year, and Friday the 13th have made it clear a nostalgia-driven demand exists for this brand of exploitation horror--which goes to show people really like to see teenagers being murdered creatively.
Roope Tamminen's Lakeview Cabin Collection can't be called anything but a love letter to this long-lost genre; from the abandoned summer camp backdrop to its cast of rowdy, horned-up teens, this game isn't shy about its inspirations. As you could probably guess, Lakeview provides one simple goal: survive, and defeat the ruthless Jason-like stalker--though, thankfully, you have a team of four expendable camp counselors to help with this task.
Of course, your first five or six attempts to stumble through Lakeview's relatively small sandbox world will probably be spent figuring out just how everything works. The half-dozen cabins sprinkled around the lakeside offer their share of items, some of which can be combined or used with others to unlock their true potential. But since your four counselors can only hold one thing at a time, you'll be regularly switching between them as you gather resources for the inevitable appearance of the baby-masked killer.
The real tension in Lakeview comes from the fact that you'll never know when this enemy will appear--which reminds me a lot of Friday the 13th's NES adaptation. If you're spotted, the killer will make a beeline in your direction, and while characters can only take a few hits before dying, the environment offers a lot of areas to hide safely. Though the killer's appearance is always meant to be a surprise, Lakeview tends to drop some helpful warnings into your lap; come out of a cabin, for instance, and you'll see a message written in blood that wasn't there before, accompanied by a creepy piano sting. You also have to make sure characters who aren't under your control stay out of harm's way, too--leave them lingering too long, and you may return to see your former friends splayed open like beef carcasses.
Lakeview Cabin Collection has a real trial-and-error nature to it, which can make earlier playthroughs frustrating; since the killer's appearance is the only random element, each attempt brings you closer to mastering the tiny environment this team of four is trapped inside. Once I discovered a shotgun and two usable shells, for instance, I made grabbing these items an absolute priority on every single playthrough. And when I figured out I could throw one of my characters across a gap to lift a pulley-controlled barrier that blocked the other side of camp, I'd leave him up there immediately so others could pass beneath--and also for the rare chance to crush the killer with its massive weight.
To find some of the most useful items, though, you'll have to do some experimenting. Getting two of your counselors to have sex might seem useless outside of the comedic value, but this action knocks the key to the shotgun room down from the ledge above. Some items hold more valuable items within them, too: Hacking open an unassuming box will give you an ultra-rare shotgun shell, and you can get an additional shotgun room key if you break open the bookbag at the very start of the game, as well as the letter inside.
Lakeview's sandbox nature adds an extra twist, since enemies are bound by the same laws you are; the killer may appear at random, be he has to search cabins on foot just as you do. And, just like the cast of counselors, this creeping terror is forced to use the same items laying around the campgrounds for his own goals. On one of my later playthroughs, after nabbing the shotgun and setting up a fire trap with a gas can, I switched to another counselor, found all the weapons I could, and threw them in the lake--all except for a big, hefty axe. Since the killer had no choice but to use his bare hands, it was much easier to blast him twice with the shotgun and then ignite the gas can at his feet--which, unfortunately, still didn't kill him. Then, a second killer appeared and did us all in with a huge knife--which he presumably brought from home. Clearly, there were some kinks in this plan of mine.
It should be noted that Lakeview Cabin Collection (currently available on Steam) is an episodic series; the scenario available now, "Lakeview Cabin III," exists as one of four doors in a movie theater hub--which acts as a survival experience itself (with its own monstrous killer) for players willing to explore. Even though I've put three hours into this first episode, I still haven't figured out the key to success; and reading the achievements list tells me there's plenty of things I've never tried, like tossing the downed killer's body into a throttling wood chipper--which seems like a perfectly reasonable idea. If developer Roope Tamminen can get this much life out of such a small, reactive environment, I'm definitely on board with whatever new horrors Lakeview's future episodes will hold.